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First Minister Praises Church Engagement

Wednesday May 22 2019

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addresses the General Assembly. Picture by Andy O'Brien

The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, this morning praised the Church of Scotland’s engagement in ‘the great national and international issues of the day’.

Addressing the General Assembly in Edinburgh, twenty years to the month after the Scottish Parliament first met in the same hall, Nicola Sturgeon said that the Kirk could remind politicians of their responsibility to air differences ‘in a civil and respectful way, while seeking common ground and consensus’.

Recalling the Church’s respectful dialogue programme during the debate on Scottish Independence in 2014, she said: “You provided a space where people could debate and discuss the issues of Scotland’s future in a respectful and constructive way.

“And of course the manner in which this assembly conducts itself is a model of how big issues can be debated in a way that builds consensus rather than deepening division.

“I am well aware that the issues that Scotland confronts at present – including of course how the UK responds to Brexit, how Scotland can influence that, and what the constitutional future of Scotland should look like – are ones which arouse strong passions.  And rightly so.

“I am also aware that the current political climate – exacerbated no doubt by the way in which some forms of social media work – can be polarising and divisive. Convictions and firmly held beliefs should not be derided - but perhaps these days we can be too quick to retreat into political tribes, with a focus on areas of conflict rather than agreement.

“So all of us - and political leaders especially - have a responsibility to resist the momentum for division and polarisation…

“And when politicians forget or fall short of that responsibility - as all of us sometimes do - the Church is, I think, well placed to remind us of it.”

She also praised the Church’s interfaith engagement and the expression of solidarity with Scotland’s Muslims issued by the Christian churches in the aftermath of the Christchurch shootings: “At a time when intolerance and bigotry appear to be on the rise in parts of the world, it is vitally important – and hugely appreciated – that the major faiths in Scotland stand so strongly together in solidarity.”

And she added that her message to the Assembly was a simple ‘Thank you’, “For the enormous and highly valued contribution that the Church of Scotland makes to communities across our country, and indeed around the world. Everyone in Scotland – Christians, and those of other faiths and none – benefits from the work that you do. It follows that the Scottish Government welcomes and indeed cherishes the role of the Church of Scotland in our national life. And it is important, I think to emphasise that we appreciate your role even when – or perhaps particularly when – you are saying things that are uncomfortable for governments to hear. Indeed, that is often when your voice is most valuable and most important.”

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